Two Week Smartphone Detox Challenge – Results

In my last post, I announced that I was going to do a challenge on smartphone detox for two weeks. I will reiterate the rules that I have signed up to:

  1. Do not look at phone first thing in the morning
  2. Do not look at / post on social media all day except during designated slots in the morning and evening
  3. Leave phone at home when going out for short distances from home
  4. Do not look at phone before (at least one hour before) sleep

Firstly, let me explain why I have decided to do this challenge.

Why?

Some background first. I have had a smartphone for years now. I use it mostly for connecting to people via social media, mails, a bit of working and online shopping (I shop most of my stuff online these days, I don’t like the crowded malls/shops). I mostly use Whatsapp and Instagram. I have a FaceBook account but I deleted the app from my phone over two years ago. I’m not at all active on Twitter and I hardly ever use it. Finally, I don’t have push notifications for anything. (except of course for normal calls and texts).

So, I’m somewhere in the middle of the phone addiction spectrum. Why did I take this challenge?

  • Reality check: How much am I really addicted to my phone? And if the addiction is really bad, use this challenge as an initiative to get de-addicted.
  • Phoneless life: How does life feel like without constant checking of phone?
  • Know myself: By cutting down the clutter/noise from phone, I was hoping to be more aware of myself.

 

How did it go?

First thing in the morning and at least one hour before sleep:

Initially I struggled to even remember these but eventually, these became easy to stick to. Somewhere in the middle of week 1, I gave in and spent an hour on the phone in the middle of the night because I got woken up by my two year old (who went back to bed and I couldn’t! So typical!). But overall, I can say there has been success in these two rules.

Check social media apps only at pre-determined times:

I chose two designated times for this – 11.30am – 12.30pm and 6.30 pm – 7.30 pm. I sucked at this in the initial few days. To remember firstly and then to resist the automatic urge to check Whatsapp messages and Instagram feed. These apps were filling my empty spaces between one task and the next, while waiting for something or sometimes while eating too. Any moment when I’m not actively “doing” anything, I’d automatically open the social media apps, even without my full awareness. I sort of knew this was the case but taking up this challenge confirmed it.

So in these two weeks, after crossing the hurdle of being able to remember the two time slots, I got better at being aware when my hand would go out to reach for the phone in auto-pilot mode. Then I got better at resisting my strong urge. My strong urge was related to my mind-talk along the lines of “what’s the harm in quickly checking Whatsapp messages?”, “let me just check if XYZ has replied”, “I’m not doing anything for the next 10 mins so what’s wrong in just browsing through my Insta feed?”, “Who cares about this challenge anyway?”. Overall, there were days when I failed and there were days when I was able to go by the rules of the challenge.

Leave phone at home when going out short distances:

I did not follow this well as I failed to remember to not take my phone with me when going out.

 

What did I learn?

Now that I know how much I’m addicted, I think I’m going to continue the ‘check social media apps only at these times’ rule. I’m almost out of the urge to check phone first thing in the morning and last thing in the night. I don’t see a strong reason to leave phone at home as long as I stick to the ‘check social media apps only at these times’ rule.

Phoneless life did not seem extremely different from life before this challenge mainly because I don’t have alerts/push notifications anyway. It was definitely different in that I had sudden pockets of space which I could choose to deal with differently, which actually links to the next point:

I chose to use some spaces in between tasks to meditate for a couple of minutes or may be just take a step back and see how I was feeling. Was I feeling calm or stressed or annoyed or just about anything? This allowed me to catch any negative emotions or even meaningless mind chatter before they became big. Sometimes, during these spaces or waiting times, I chose to just zoom out and watch around – my surroundings, nature, people, other sounds apart from the voice in my head.

This experience is my favourite part of this challenge. It almost is a ready-at-hand self-awareness and calming trick. I was using these spaces to check phone which just resulted in more information noise into my head or aggravate existing emotions or just plain distraction from what is. By cutting the phone out, I feel more calm and balanced as I now realise that I actually have some ‘me’ time at hand if only I choose to use that time in this way.

 

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Two Week Smartphone Detox Challenge

I’m taking a two week smartphone detox challenge. I checked some challenges online and used some of the rules from there. And then I added some of my rules as well. Starting today, I’m doing this challenge. I will do a full post on why I’m doing this and how it went once it’s over.

So here are the four simple rules of this challenge:

  1. Do not look at phone first thing in the morning
  2. Do not look at / post on social media all day except during designated slots in the morning and evening
  3. Leave phone at home when going out for short distances from home
  4. Do not look at phone before (at least one hour before) sleep

Seemingly simple rules. But will need a lot of discipline and willpower to stick to them.

Find a purpose or buy a house?

WHY DID WE POUR ALL OUR MONEY INTO STARTING A BUSINESS INSTEAD OF BUYING A HOME?

This is a question we asked ourselves several times before reaching a conclusion (and still ask ourselves at times even now). “Why don’t you buy a home?” is a question many people still ask us every now and then.

Yes, it was a conscious decision to invest all our savings into our start-up business rather than buy a home as expected from a middle-aged adult couple. A couple who have just had a baby girl. A couple who were in well-paid corporate jobs in well-respected high-profile roles. A couple who were doing exceptionally well in their respective professions. A couple who had no other financial asset or liability. When all was going perfectly well as per the world’s definition of ‘life is good’ and the norm would be to buy a house and “settle down”, we took a sharp U-turn by deciding to quit both our jobs and put most of our time and a big majority of our savings into starting a business. Here’s why:

 

Finding a purpose:

Personally, ever since I left Scotland, I was going through an identity crisis. I worked really hard, sacrificed many weekends, party nights and all kinds of leisure for several years to become an actuary. And when I became one, I struggled to know what my purpose was. Yes, a fully qualified actuary did not know what to do with her life. Performing regulatory and business valuations, designing and pricing life insurance products just did not satiate my “what the hell am I doing in this world” question. I constantly felt the hollow of not being able to do something that has a direct (and good) impact on the world.

“Settling down” wasn’t enough:

Both of us had this urge to do much more than “settle down”. I had a constant stream of haunting thoughts like “what’s the point of our big salaries?”, “what is the kind of world that I’d love our daughter to live in?”, “How can I make my profession better?”. We both knew that quitting both our jobs would be highly risky – for us, for our new born baby, for our parents, for our career. And yet, we just HAD to take that difficult step to find out what awaited us on the other side.

Set an example by doing:

There was no doubt about how much we both complained about the “corporate-ness” of our jobs. How people became machines by working like machines, how companies became machine-producing machines by treating people like machines and how most people that we knew worked only because their jobs pay their monthly bills, their mortgage and maintain their life style. And not because they truly loved their work. It was depressing to see the vicious circle most people were living in; the circle of work because you want to be able to buy the stuff that you want, buy stuff because you can afford it and make more money and buy more stuff and so on.

We both absolutely loved our jobs while we lived in Scotland and we have the urge for people around us now to experience what “loving your job” feels like. So, we wanted a platform to start fresh, work and lead by example and set a culture where people love what they do.

Why buy when we can rent? We just need a homely shelter:

For someone like me who needs certainty, renting a home isn’t the ideal solution. But somehow, one day I suddenly realised that buying a home means that we not only pour all our savings into one physical structure but also that we lose the financial freedom to quit/change/try something new with our career altogether. The thought of not having financial freedom gave us nightmares, not being able to buy a home did not. And in a karmic way to end this, if we were meant to buy a home, it will happen at a time it is meant to happen. Plus, renting a home and having to move every now and then will contribute to a ‘living light’ way of living and I’d like to embrace lightness as much as possible.

 

It has been over an year since our start-up came into existence. We are now a bunch of ten people working together – passionate, happy and loving our jobs. Running a start-up has been the toughest thing we have ever done (some days we both feel like killing each other) besides raising a baby (also makes us both feel like killing each other), but does it answer the ‘what the hell am I doing in this world?’ question? Yes, to an extent and eventually, this path will answer it fully. We just know.

 

Hibernation and back

Well, many things happened in the last two years and so I “parked” my writing yet again. But I’m back now and I’m here to stay hopefully. In my following blogs, it will be obvious as to why I went into hibernation and how I’m trying to surface back into writing and other things fun.

I can’t wait to pour all my thoughts out instead of just “thinking and writing them in my mind”. Stay tuned.

 

How to get rid of an addiction to a game

This is the second post in the productivity and habit formation series, which I call ‘Better You’. Here is the first post: “Thinking no but saying yes?

Lets dive into today’s topic. How I quit playing Candy Crush (in 3 simple steps):

I had a love-hate relationship with Candy Crush for months! We all know why we love Candy Crush – it is the same reason for hating it! Because it is such a time killer. Every time I closed the app after losing all my lives (I never bought/traded lives), I used to kick myself for wasting that past half hour doing something absolutely useless!

So after several failed attempts at promising myself not to play it any more, I decided to start with an easy target (step 1) and see how I cope with not playing for just two days. It was very difficult to resist but I told myself that at the end of two days, I would have the freedom to play as many number of times as I wanted. At the end of two days, I told myself “Why not try for another two days?”. After tricking myself (step 2) like this for a week and suddenly realising that it has been a week (A WEEK!!) since I played, I felt proud of myself. So I thought, “If I managed this far, I will stretch the challenge for a bigger step (step 3) of one more week”. This was different from the initial two days because this time, I knew right at the start that the coming streak was for one long week i.e. difficult level 2 (pun intended). Anyway, so, after playing these tricks with my mind, I now managed to quit my habit! It has been at least two months since I played and I don’t have an urge to play when I’m waiting in a queue, travelling etc. Bye bye Candy Crush. So long. I love(d) you.

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By the way, I considered deleting the app before I decided to take the first 2 day challenge but I couldn’t. I had reached 170+ level and I was concerned that I would repent deleting it later. Using the method that I adopted i.e. not deleting the app and yet managing to consciously quit the addiction, I, the mighty Candy Crusher, showed to the world what will-power (and a couple of cheeky mind tricks) can do. 🙂

This is one of the posts in productivity and habit formation series called ‘Better You’. Other posts in this series are: 

Thinking no but saying yes?

Thinking no but saying yes?

This post introduces the productivity and habit formation series called ‘Better You’ that I am planning to write every now and then. I feel that it is important for each one of us to grow constantly and become a better version of ourselves. With that thought in mind, I will be writing about how I form/quit habits and how I drive my productivity. Without further ado, lets dive into today’s topic.

Very often, we come across situations when we are asked to do something that we are unable to do or don’t want to do. It might be a work project that our boss has suddenly asked us to look at when we know we are already loaded with way too much work. Sometimes, it is a social obligation e.g. a friend’s birthday party. Whatever our reason for not being able to commit to that request, we find ourselves being in an uneasy or obligatory state and end up saying ‘Yes’ to the request. We know we want to say ‘No’ and yet we can’t muster the strength to say so.

 

If you must say yes, say it with an open heart. If you must say no, say it without any fear.

– Paulo Coelho

 

First of all, it is important to recognise what we are capable of handling, what we really want to do, what we really love to do, what our priorities are, what our long term goals are. That new project that the boss has asked us to take up, friend’s birthday party – we know they are all important things too. Yet, it is important to say ‘No’ to all those things that are not on the priority list so that we are able to pay attention to those that are. Otherwise, we’ll end up not doing anything well. We get carried away convincing ourselves that we will be able to do the perfect balancing act. It is tempting to think that just stretching ourselves a little bit more will allow us to do everything. Just one more hour at the desk. Just one more day or one last time. Just one less hour of sleep. And before we know, we work ourselves to the point of breakdown. Breakdown of health – mental or physical or both, breakdown of relationships with people around us, breakdown of our project/work performance, breakdown of our patience, breakdown of our peace.

Now that we understand the importance of saying ‘No’, lets move on to actually saying it. Once you start the conversation about saying ‘No’, remind yourself that there is no turning back however awkward or uneasy you feel. You know you have clearly prioritised other things over this. There is no point loitering and making things difficult for you and the people expecting an otherwise ‘Yes’ from you. But of course, we can learn to say ‘No’ politely and may be also explain our rationale behind it. There is no need to be rude, just plain simple ‘Sorry but No’ – clear, polite and firm. This is probably the most difficult part of this process but remember, it is not any more difficult than trying to do everything!

You have chosen your priorities and also mastered the art of saying ‘No’ to the less important things or distractions. Now what? Make sure you focus well on the priorities you have opted for. Give them your best and justify your choice of making them your priority amongst a million other things you could have done instead. It doesn’t end there. When life throws new unexpected things to deal with, recalibrate. Reassess your priorities in light of these new developments and repeat the same process again.

In no time, you will undoubtedly start seeing the benefits of this process of prioritising and de-prioritising and also being bold at saying ‘No’ to those low or nil priority things.

If you have any useful techniques for setting priorities or for saying ‘No’, please share them in the comments below. I hope you found this post useful. Stay tuned for the next post in this ‘Better You’ series where I will tell you the story of how I quit my addiction to playing Candy Crush.

 

 

A tale of 1000 origami cranes

Last week marked the half-way milestone for one of the craft projects that I’m currently working on. I thought I’d share my experience and the outcome here.

So it all started off with my google search on fun things to do for my birthday (like a wish-list or a bucket list). And I came across this bucket-list idea (from this blog) of making 1000 origami cranes and instantly, it made its way to my bucket-list. I decided to make it for someone special for their birthday in October. I learnt how to make an origami crane from this website: http://www.origami-instructions.com/origami-crane.html

The end result that I had in mind was to make 1000 origami cranes and hang them from our ceiling in the living room. I decided to make in yellow and blue as I thought they would look colourful and bright against our white ceiling. I did not work on my own on this project and instead took help, given that I had my normal full-time job to do everyday! I did not use the ready-made origami paper and instead cut the paper to size from scratch! In hindsight, that was not a very wise thing to do but I’ll talk about it a bit more in the ‘What I’ve learnt’ section below.

Here is a brief overview of the process and the end result of this fun project:

IMG_0467 IMG_0468 IMG_0471 IMG_0476 IMG_0482 IMG_0488 IMG_0496 IMG_0514 (1) IMG_0518 (1) IMG_0519 (1) IMG_0520 (1) IMG_0526 (1) IMG_0528 (1) IMG_0530 IMG_0531 IMG_0533 (1) IMG_0541

Needless to say, they looked beautiful. My favourite part is watching them cradle when the wind blows (which is my happy corner (#11) for this post). They are still hanging from our ceiling and remind me everyday that no matter what, its important to keep going and that success will automatically follow 🙂

Now some insight into what I’ve learnt from this project:

  • Do not underestimate the time-scales. I’m usually good at planning but I did not pay much attention to the time this project would take since I thought 3 months would be ample time to make 1000 cranes. That turned out to be quite destructive as I could not make 1000 in time and had to compromise with 500 by October. I should have been more careful in my estimation.
  • Think efficiency, efficiency and efficiency. Due to the repetitive and mundane nature of the task, I made sure that I improved with each repetition and constantly looked for ways to increase the speed and quality. One costly (and related) lesson that I learnt was: outsource where you can. I should have bought the ready-made origami paper and saved time. This is an important tip for anyone looking to take a similar project.
  • Perseverance and ‘enjoying the journey’ are the crux of such large scale projects. Worrying about the end result and deadlines is not going to make the project finish any sooner. Enjoy every bit of the process. I discovered how much determination I had inside of me – to make one crane after the other.

I’m still working on this project by the way and I am still determined to complete 1000 cranes. I’m excited to see the finish line and check the box against this bucket-list item.

Just to reiterate, for anyone interested to learn how to make an origami crane, this website has a step-by-step process: http://www.origami-instructions.com/origami-crane.html. Enjoy!

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